Phil Bickford joined the New York Mets in August through a trade with the Los Angeles Dodgers in exchange for cash. A strange trade by the tanking Mets for a guy not doing much, Bickford got off to a terribly slow start with New York.
His August was like a first date encounter with spinach in your teeth, your fly down, and a forgetful mind where you don’t realize you’ve been on a date with this person before. He had a 7.36 ERA in 14.2 innings of work in his introductory month that seemed to chew him up and spit him out without mercy. When he logged just as many innings back in May, Bickford was annihilated with a 9.20 ERA as a member of the Dodgers.
Miraculously, Bickford had a sub-4.00 ERA in every other month of the season and even managed to turn things around in September.
Phil Bickford may have earned himself a chance to compete for a job next year
Although the 4.62 ERA in 25.1 innings for the Mets doesn’t inspire much confidence, his September was pretty awesome. Bickford gave up just 1 earned run the entire month in his 10.2 innings. It came in the one loss tallied to his stat sheet when he allowed the winning run to score against the Washington Nationals on September 6.
Bickford was much better for the final weeks, only allowing an unearned run versus the Philadelphia Phillies on September 22. Working mostly in the seventh or eighth inning for the remainder of the 2023 season, he showed enough to at least deserve some consideration to come back next season.
Well before he even made his MLB debut in 2020 with the Milwaukee Brewers, Bickford was a well-hyped pitcher with a somewhat strange career. He was the tenth overall pick in the 2013 MLB Draft but chose to go to college instead. He’d later get picked 18th overall in 2015. How many players in MLB history were drafted in the first round twice let alone dropped?
He found his way from the San Francisco Giants to the Brewers via a trade deadline deal in 2016 when he was one of two pieces swapped for pitcher Will Smith. He was a notable starting pitching prospect who by 2018 transitioned into a reliever. A broken hand and a 50-game suspension for PEDs cost him almost a full year in the minors. Ever since, he has been a mostly forgotten player the Giants are probably thankful they moved on from.
For the Mets, Bickford seems like somewhat of an ill-fit considering he no longer has minor league options. Players of his caliber tend to need that flexibility.
Coincidentally, he is now reunited with David Stearns who previously designated him for assignment. Bickford was productive for the 2021 Dodgers. He won’t turn 29 until next summer. Can he earn a roster spot with the Mets?
The conclusion does seem to be fairly obvious. If he somehow survives the offseason on the roster, he’ll get some spring innings and may even sneak all the way from St. Lucie to Flushing due to injuries. He’s a bit of a safety net in case Tommy John Surgery runs rampant or a few too many relievers show up to camp with knees ready to buckle. He’d need to be really good and/or the Mets really bad in order to last the whole 2024 season.
There’s room for him right now for some security. That may not last long. Bickford is one Mets free agent signing away from adios.